I’ve just spent the weekend in the Cairngorms teaching winter skills to members of the West Lothian Mountaineering Club. Saturday turned out to be a proper winters day with steady 40/50mph winds and a few hefty gusts but not as bad as the forecast suggested. It snowed all day, which was a welcome phenomenon considering the wet, warm weather we have been experiencing over the past week. I was kind of glad the weather was a little wild as it gives course members a chance to experience what ‘Scottish Winter’ is really like, all under the guidance of an instructor to help them through their day. After a yomp up the ski road, Saturday morning was spent in Coire na Ciste where we found a perfect ribbon of snow ice to practice some movement skills including crampon and ice axe work. Although I do like to ensure everyone knows the correct ice axe arrest position, I often focus on good movement before doing the whole sliding around practising stopping. We then navigated over to Coire Laogh Mor only to battle with huge drifts as the aspect changed entering the Coire. Here we covered basic ice axe braking before heading back towards the ski road and down to Glenmore.
Today was a very different day altogether – we could actually see and hear eachother! The group were keen to go over more ice axe breaking (which we did at the foot of the Fiacaill Ridge) before wandering into Coire an t-Sneachda. I have never seen so many people walking into the Coire to go climbing; I mean there must have been 300 people, it looked like a scene from Everest…..! We took the opportunity on our journey into the Coire to stop and dig some emergency shelters. Following this we made good use of the large scoured slope bypassing the Mess of Pottage which finishes at Windy Col. It was a great experience for everyone to be on an open face using their new found skills to safely ascend a slope. We still had time to summit Cairngorm Mountain, which we did without incident before wandering down Sron an Aonaich back to the carpark. Two great days in excellent company, I am looking forward to seeing these guys on Skye in the spring!